Pope Francis has added a few activities to his August agenda, resuming some public meetings after his July travels and working vacation. He met today with a huge group of altar servers in St. Peter’s Square and will resume the weekly general audience tomorrow, so stay tuned for that!
ALTAR SERVERS EXPERIENCE “THE INTIMATE CLOSENESS OF JESUS, THE SWEETNESS AND POWER OF HIS PRESENCE”
I went to St. Peter’s Basilica this morning, expecting to attend the 10am Mass at the altar of St. Joseph but there was already a very large group occupying almost every seat and, as they prayed, I could understand that we were nearing communion time, thus Mass was well underway. I heard the celebrant, a cardinal, speak in German so I knew I was among one of the groups of the estimated 9,000 altar servers from around the world, the largest contingent expected to be German.
The altar servers are in Rome from countries around the world, and participating in the Ninth International Pilgrimage of Acolytes and Altar Servers. The highlight of their trip was the encounter with Pope Francis in early evening in St. Peter’s Square. There were musical tributes and a speech by Bishop Német, president of “Coetus Internationalis Ministrantium,” to which the Pope reponded in German, a language he is said to know but rarely uses. (photo news.va)
The International Pilgrimage of Altar Servers, which takes place every five years, is organized by the group Coetus Internationalis Ministrantium, a group that includes representatives from countries throughout Europe, including Germany, Italy, and France, as well as smaller countries such as Croatia, Luxembourg, Serbia, and Slovakia. The international pilgrimage allows altar servers to take part in a unique experience for their service, and helps them to discover the diversity of the universal Church.
The Pope reflected on the theme of this year’s pilgrimage, “Here I am: Send me!” He began by thanking the young people “for coming in such great numbers; you have withstood the heat of the sun in Rome in August.”
Francis stated, “It is important to realize that being close to Jesus and knowing him in the Eucharist through your service at the altar, enables you to open yourselves to others, to journey together, to set demanding goals and to find the strength to achieve them. It is a source of real joy to recognize that we are small and weak, all the while knowing that, with Jesus’ help, we can be strengthened and take up the challenge of life’s great journey in his company.”
“In the Eucharist and in the other sacraments,” said the Holy Father, “You experience the intimate closeness of Jesus, the sweetness and power of his presence. You do not encounter Jesus placed on an inaccessibly high throne, but in the bread and wine of the Eucharist. His word does not shake the doorposts, but rather caresses the strings of the heart. … It is always God who takes the lead, because it is he who created you and willed you into being. It is he who, in your baptism, has made you into a new creation; he is always patiently waiting for your response to his initiative, offering forgiveness to whoever asks him in humility.”
Francis exclaimed, “If we do not resist him, Jesus will touch our lips with the flame of his merciful love, as he did to the prophet Isaiah. This will make us worthy to receive him and to bring him to our brothers and sisters. Like Isaiah, we too are invited to not remain closed in on ourselves, protecting our faith in an underground bunker to which we flee in difficult moments. Rather, we are called to share the joy of knowing we are chosen and saved by God’s mercy, the joy of being witnesses to the fact that faith gives new direction to our steps, that it makes us free and strong so as to be ready and able for mission.”
“Dear altar boys and altar girls, the closer you are to the altar, the more you will remember to speak with Jesus in daily prayer; the more you will be nourished by the Word and the Body of the Lord, the better able you will be to go out to others, bringing them the gift that you have received, giving in turn with enthusiasm the joy you have received. Thank you for serving at the Lord’s altar …. Thank you also for having begun to respond to the Lord, like the prophet Isaiah, “Here I am. Send me.”